Food detective: Activated nuts

Do nuts need to be 'activated' in order to reap their health benefits? Healthy Food Guide investigates.

What are they?

‘Activated’ nuts have been soaked in water, then dried at a low temperature. Soaking starts the germination or sprouting process.

Why do it?

Fans of activated nuts say soaking increases the nutrient value and breaks down compounds called phytates, making them easier to digest.

What does the science say about activated nuts?

There’s very little scientific evidence to say what changes occur in a soaked nut and whether these changes make a nutritional difference. There’s also a question around whether the phytates in nuts really are a problem. We’d have to be eating a lot for their phytate content to have an impact on mineral absorption, leading to a deficiency — this is rare even for vegetarians whose diets are likely to include more nuts. In fact, phytate is also an antioxidant, and may be important in protecting against cancer and other inflammatory diseases, so reducing the amount of phytate you consume may not always be desirable.

To activate or not?

Nuts are great food, activated or not. They contain healthy fats, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals so a handful makes a nutritious snack. So enjoy them activated or plain, and know you’re doing something good for your body. And note, most instructions for activating nuts include salt, sometimes substantial amounts, so if you need to watch your sodium intake, choose plain unsalted nuts.

First published: Sep 2015

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